Greason: McLaughlin has chance to build something special at Notre Dame
Elizabeth Greason | Tuesday, August 30, 2016
It’s no secret the Irish did not have their best possible season last year. In fact, with their 7-25 (2-18 ACC) record, the 2015-2016 season could best be categorized as a disappointment.
But last season also falls into another category — one of constant improvement, as evidenced by Notre Dame’s undefeated start to the 2016-2017 season, its best start in five years, and stronger play in its spring season. There is no doubt that Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin has seen a complete turnaround in his team since he took the helm a year ago.
“It’s just a totally different team,” McLaughlin said. “More mature, more familiar, playing harder, a little bit more confident.”
As in the spring, McLaughlin also felt that the team has improved in the physical and technical aspects of the game, and not simply emotionally and as a team.
“Our serve and pass has gotten better, but the thing that has stepped up is, our blocking defense has improved,” McLaughlin said May 4. “We did two things: we served better; we passed better. In our blocking game, we created more opportunities and we converted those opportunities. So our blocking [defense] was better.”
However, while the team is leaps and bounds from where it was this time last year, its ability to stack up against top-notched competition, including nationally-ranked Purdue, will be tested when the Irish face the No. 24 Boilermakers this Saturday.
While the Irish put on a strong showing at the Golden Dome Invitational to open the season, the teams they will face throughout the remainder of the season, especially their ACC rivals, have simply proven themselves to be better and stronger in the past, with no signs that they will slip up going forward. In short, it is going to be a long, difficult road until the Irish can be considered superior.
But, there is certainly no lack of hope in the squad’s future due primarily to McLaughlin’s new leadership and attitude of constant progress. Along with this attitude, McLaughlin brings an illustrious resume to Notre Dame with him. Among a wide variety of other accomplishments, he is the lone coach to win NCAA championships on both the men’s and women’s sides of the sport. And with that strong background comes a strong recruiting pull.
This year’s freshmen mark the first recruiting class of the McLaughlin era. And the freshmen have already begun to leave their mark. Outside hitter Jemma Yeadon picked up a double-double in her collegiate debut, while Under Armour Honorable Mention All-American and freshman outside hitter Lauren Woodard is preparing to see her first action in a college match, which McLaughlin said will come sooner rather than later.
McLaughlin has the ability to build a team from the bottom up, and with Yeadon and Woodard — as well as fellow freshmen setter Hanna Klein and libero Halle Truett, leading the way — the Irish are sure to become a force to be reckoned with and will undoubtedly pose a veritable threat nationally as McLaughlin has the chance to build the team he wants.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.